Monday, October 26, 2015


Cheapskate Horrorshow
So here we are again on The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween.

The poster
I admit to not being much of a video game fan.  When I was younger I had an Atari, and that was pretty cool, but video games were something I just sort of outgrew quickly, as I was more interested in making things with a computer rather than playing things on it.  With so many horror video games being released now, it makes sense that the Hollywood horror contingent would eventually turn to making a horror film about video games, which brings us rather neatly to our Cheapskate Horrorshow review of Stay Alive, a not-well-received but nonetheless interesting little film.  (Note: I viewed the Director's Cut for this review, and it is suggested that you view this one also.  I'll get to why in a minute.)

Stay Alive opens with the murder of Loomis Crowley (Milo Ventimiglia) and his roommate and roommate's girlfriend by an unseen killer, shortly after playing an unreleased video game called "Stay Alive."  This game is passed on at Loomis's funeral to his best friend and fellow gamer Hutch (Jon Foster) who plays the game in
From gamer's glory to lamely gory
a session with Abigail (Samaire Armstrong), a photographer he meets at the funeral, and his other gamer friends: the brother-sister team of foul-mouthed Phineas (Jimmi Simpson) and goth-wanna-blessed-be October (Sophia Bush), overcommitted and undersocialized gaming freak Swink (Frankie Muniz) and his boss Miller, who joins them online from his office.  They discover that the game will not start until all who are playing have recited an incantation called "The Prayer Of Elizabeth" which leads them into a mad revenant-killing spree on an old plantation.  Miller is killed in the game, and calls it a night, but shortly afterward is murdered in the exact same manner that his game character was, and cue the mayhem.  In a series of events that is purest Scooby-Doo, the gang discovers that the game is based on the exploits of the real-life murderess Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who somehow survived the centuries and turned up in Louisiana (like you do) continuing her exploits by running a girls' school/virgin-blood-donor farm.  Also, the spirit of Bathory is quite active... and coming after all of them.

Bathory, in all her bathos
Now, the reason I say watch the Director's Cut is this:  though the movie is pleasantly entertaining by-the-numbers supernatural-stalker horror (nothing you've not seen before, but nothing new under the sun either), the Director's Cut has a very crucial character and subplot that was apparently cut out of the theatrical release, which unfortunately ends up destroying any sense this movie might make if you don't see those parts.  It's entirely possible that this is why Stay Alive received rather negative reviews upon its release.  Still, if you view this cut (available from Netflix and most of the usual online sources), the movie itself turns out to be fairly decent, though a few of the subplots appear to be tacked on and the brother-sister relationship between Phin and October doesn't feel fully developed.  Stay Alive falls into the same category as more recent horror films like The Cabin In The Woods and Valentine: that of "young adult" or "college-age" horror rather than the "teenage" horror of films such as the Nightmare On Elm Street and Friday The 13th oeuvres.  Mostly this means that you can expect less mad partying and more recreational drug use between violent kills.  The killer-video-game idea, while not necessarily innovative, is serviceable, and the use of the Elizabeth Bathory legend is one that's not been seen much in horror.  Another good movie to watch with friends and popcorn.

So keep tuned to The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween.  We'll be back soon...

Stay Alive is available from, Netflix, and other  video rental/online  streaming services.  The Monster Shop strictly advises viewing the Director's Cut of the film.  Check it out.

Sunday, September 13, 2015


Punkin's Easy-Bake Coven
Howdy there!  This here is Petronella Nightshade, what am Punkin, and welcome to this year’s MonsterGrrls’ Thir13en For Halloween.  Today I am doin the Easy-Bake Coven, which will be givin you some recipes and such that you can try at home for the season. 

Most mamas out there will be wantin to give their young’uns a good supper on Halloween night before everbody goes out for tricks and treats, so they won’t fill up on all that candy and everythin.  Also, some of you who is throwin Halloween parties might want a good meal to serve your guests, so I am startin off with a recipe for y’all that is a crackerjack.  This is called Harvest Moon Stew, and it’ll fill you up and keep the cold out on a chilly fall evenin.

What You Need:
Harvest Moon Stew
2 frozen chicken breasts what has been took off the bone or ain’t got no bone, and what has been skinned (deboned, boneless or skinless)
1 can of rotel tomatoes
1 can of kernel corn, with the juice (undrained)
1 can of black beans, with the juice (undrained)
1 block of cream cheese (1 16-ounce box or two 8-ounce boxes)
1 packet of dry Ranch dip mix (use your favorite)
1 teaspoon of chili powder
1 tablespoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of onion powder or bottled onion juice

What You Got To Do:
This here is cooked up in a crock pot, which is a contraption what works a lot like a witch’s kettle except it’s got electricity so you ain’t got to build a fire under it, and it’s a lot easier to carry around.  Start by layerin all the ingredients in the order we listed them in the crockpot, set the dial to High and let it cook for about six hours.  You can cut back your time a little if you’re usin thawed-out chicken, and as everythin starts breakin down, give it a stir now and again durin the cookin time.  This makes a real good smell when it’s cookin.

When the time is up, take the chicken out (lettin all the good stuff on it drip back in the pot) and shred it up.  Put it all back in the pot, stir it up together good, and then serve it over cooked rice or noodles.  If you’re servin this at a party you better make up a lot and stand back cause there’s goin to be a run on it.

And that is all there is to it, and my ain’t it a simple one to be startin with.  If you’re used to cookin in a crock pot you might think you ain’t done much of a much the first time you try it, but it’s a mighty good chew that tastes like you spent forever and a day on it.  Y’all be sure you come back for our next postin in The MonsterGrrls’ Thir13en For Halloween, cause we’re startin up early this year and you know it’s always first one thing and then another with us when Halloween time rolls around.  Blessings be on you!

Petronella “Punkin” Nightshade

MAD DOCTOR’S NOTE:  The MonsterGrrls give special thanks to Paul Brown, who shared this recipe with us.

Sunday, September 06, 2015


Cheapskate Horrorshow

Welcome back to The MonsterGrrls’ Thir13en For Halloween, and today Cheapskate Horrorshow is covering one of the Monster Shop’s favorite modern horror films, I Sell The Dead, the debut film of Irish director Glenn McQuaid. 

The poster
Though it is a modern horror film, ISTD is a period film set in the Victorian era.  The film opens on the execution day of grave robbers Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden) and his accomplice Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan, he of Lost fame).  While Grimes is dispatched quickly, Arthur is visited in his cell by one Father Duffy (Ron Perlman, doing a scene-chewing Irish brogue) who wishes to record a statement from Arthur to be used as a cautionary tale.

The scruffy pair, being scruffy
Arthur recounts his career of grave robbing with Willie, which begins in his youth and goes on to fruitful but stagnant fulfillment under the continual threat of blackmail from Dr. Quint (Angus “Tall Man” Scrimm of Phantasm fame), who is using the pair to gain corpses for illegal medical study.    

Things take a turn for the better when the two dig up and release a vampire, which leads to the pair deciding to become supernatural-based grave robbers, a new apprentice/love interest for Arthur, Fanny Briars (Brenda Cooney) and a confrontation with a group of vicious grave robbers known as House Murphy, consisting of disfigured assassin Valentine (Heather Bullock), insane enforcer Bulger (Alisdair Stewart) and their brutal leader Cornelius (John Speredakos).  Under orders from their unseen leader Samuel, House Murphy tries to dissuade the Blake/Grimes team, leading to an eventual confrontation over a shipment of crated undead… and things go mightily awry, because zombies.

All in an evening's work
The cast responds to news of a possible ISTD reboot
I Sell The Dead is a fast-moving and funny movie which recalls the days of Hammer Films’ period shockers, while at the same time being a loving sendup of same.  For a low-budget B-picture, it seems to get the Victorian period right simply by not trying very hard; all the sets, props and costuming have a good feel of hard use and squalor rather than high polish.  Sight gags and anachronistic humor abound; one standout bit of dialogue in particular involves Arthur’s sampling of a new invention called the sandwich (“it’s genius”).  Monaghan and Fessenden are the perfect pair of seedy but sympathetic rascals, and the assorted Murphy clan provide a nice punch of comic-book villainy (helped in no small way by the use of comic-art illustrations in their introductory scene).  The DVD even includes a mini-comic that tells the movie’s story, and special features include commentaries with Monaghan, Fessenden and director McQuaid, plus visual effects and making-of reels.  Give this one a try for Halloween viewing if you want something more modern yet still reminiscent of horror’s gory-glory days.

Be sure to return for our next installment of The MonsterGrrls’ Thir13en For Halloween, and don’t forget to tell the others…

I Sell The Dead is available from and most video rental/online streaming services.  Check it out.


So last year we didn't finish our Thir13en For Halloween.  We got sidetracked.  We got tired.  We got seriously misled by person or persons, and then we were dumped like a cheap latex corpse in a cardboard coffin.  We barely survived.  And Halloween was almost ruined.

But we are back.  And this year, things will be different.  And you'll get some extra posts along with our traditional Thir13en, to make up for our being led down the primrose path.

And, to those who misled us:  We may not have the rights to Halloween, but we definitely have the franchise.  If you would steal away our happiness and our energy and our celebration of our Ghost Wonderful Time Of The Year, just remember one thing:

Halloween is coming.  And so are we.


Here we come...

Friday, October 24, 2014


Welcome back to The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween, and this is your Mad Doctor.  Today we're introducing what we hope will become a new regular feature on Cheapskate Horrorshow, featuring reviews and overviews of favorite horror films including those in the categories of the weird, the wonderful, and the wacky.  Today we'll start with a film that was remade recently (much to our consternation): Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead.

Something's in the cellar with Cheryl
I can't fully explain to you why I love The Evil Dead. It's a gorefest of the first order: a violent, insane, raving, incredibly ghoulish film with much blood and horror, which usually isn't my cup of tea. But there is something about this film that makes it one of my favorite horror movies. Perhaps it's the simplicity of its story. Perhaps it's the fact that its characters were different from other horror movie characters of the day, in that they were not just cannon fodder; instead, you cared about what happened to them even after the mayhem started. Perhaps it was the cool stop-motion effects shown at the end, when all the zombies started decomposing really fast. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I grew up in the eighties, where serial killers, slashers and gore were the order of the day in horror movies, meaning that as a committed fan of classic horror and Universal's Big Seven (Frank, Drac, Wolfie, Mummy, The Bride, Phantom, Invisible Man and Blacky Lagoon), I was usually left out in the cold or forced to watch the same stuff others were watching. Yeah, I saw Freddy and Jason and a good many of their sequels just like the rest of you, but it doesn't mean I liked them. I was often left unsatisfied by these movies, or feeling as though something was generally missing. Like fun, for one thing.

Raimi and Tapert: A fruitful partnership
But The Evil Dead is different. For one thing, it was made on probably the shoestring budget to end all ($375,000; not even pocket change these days by Hollywood standards) by people who had very little idea of how to do some aspects of moviemaking correctly, in the worst conditions possible. The film's director and star, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, had been friends since their youth and had made Super-8 films together. In college they teamed with friend Robert Tapert (who is now Mr. Lucy Lawless and head of Renaissance Pictures, producers of Xena, Warrior Princess, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, and... The Evil Dead movies), and after making a short film, Within The Woods, they were able to secure funds to create The Evil Dead. Filming began in a small cabin in the woods of Tennessee and continued over the next four years. The madness of this process has now become legend: during the time it took to make this film, many of the cast and crew abandoned the production, forcing Raimi to use stand-in actors as replacements.

Upon its completion, the film struggled to find distribution due to its graphic violence and gore, and the MPAA slapped it with an NC-17 rating. It was widely banned in several countries including Ireland and Germany, but a showing at Cannes caught the eyes of both Stephen King and John Bloom. The latter, in his persona of drive-in-movie reviewer Joe Bob Briggs, promoted the film with foam-mouthed aggression, and King gave it a glowing review in the November 1982 issue of Twilight Zone. It has since gone on to become a cult classic and a direct inspiration for many of today's horror filmmakers, sort of on a par with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (though, in both production values, story and character development, Evil Dead is the better of the two).

The Book
The story of The Evil Dead is pretty simple: five young people go on a weekend jaunt to the woods, planning to camp in a cabin. Upon arriving, they discover a tape recorder and some archaeological artifacts, one of which is an odd-looking book with a screaming face for a cover. Playing the tape, the group hears the recorded journal of a professor, which explains that the book is Norturum Demondo, an ancient Sumerian text with rituals for raising the dead. Of course, this journal features a recitation of some of the book's incantations, which is never a good idea. (Handily, it also tells how to get rid of what is let loose by your messing around with Stuff You Weren't Meant To Know—but more on that in a minute.)
Ash (Bruce Campbell) gets ready for business

Cue supernatural mayhem. One by one, various terrible things happen to the five. A girl is driven out into the woods and attacked by the woods, then possessed. The others become possessed by turns, and with their souls destroyed by the evil forces that have been unleashed by the tape, the resulting corpses are then reanimated into zombies—and not ordinary zombies, either. These are not the doddering brain-hungry zombies of Night Of The Living Dead, or even the fast rage-fueled hyperdrive models of 28 Days Later; instead they are lucid, squirming, scrabbling, ranting demon-possessed zombies who want someone's soul on a platter. The survivors of the first initial assault slowly realize that the rest of the information on the tape is true; to kill these zombies, the corpses have to be dismembered completely before burial. One by one, the group perishes until only one is left alive—Ash (Bruce Campbell), the nice guy of the group, who spends the rest of the movie being driven bananas by the demons, and must survive until daybreak.

This is probably part of why I can get onboard with The Evil Dead. It has a supernatural element, which is something that is missing from most modern horror. Many of today's horror films talk a good game about paranoia, terrorism, technology and other fears of today being the driving motive of their films' plots, but more often than not the plots seem to be constructed around the phrase shit happens, which in my opinion makes for lousy filmmaking. To suggest that there is something bigger than humans, such things as true good and true evil, or that we may not be the only beings in this universe can usually get you laughed out of the horror show these days.

Evil Dead doesn't buy into this notion, which makes it, the Re-Animator films and most of the Full Moon/Charles Band/Empire Pictures oeuvre the only horror films I could really get behind in the eighties. These movies don't rely on some colorful serial killer/anti-hero; instead, they're about monsters. This movie is satisfying to me because the evil dead really are evil dead, instead of being nihilistically charming comic-book villains who crack jokes and caper about, or silent unstoppable killing machines without a grain of character. If the zombies in The Evil Dead got into a fight with the Living Dead zombies they'd not only win, they'd also eat the losers.

And that's it for our first Cheapskate Horrorshow.  Join us tomorrow on The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween for more discussion of mayhem and monsters, including that one behind you.  Made you look!

Thursday, October 23, 2014


#9: Bethany Ruthven
The poster
Good evening, darlings, and thank you for reading.  The season is upon us once again, and may I welcome you to today's installment ofThe MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween.  Today we shall have a look at an interesting little slice of horror filmmaking that comes to us all the way from London's East End: the pleasantly surprising Cockneys Vs. Zombies.  As has been mentioned before in previous posts, we here at MonsterGrrls HQ do not care much for zombies, but the round of zombie films in recent years has given way from the standard unpleasant gore-laden retreading of Night Of The Living Dead to some surprisingly well-executed takes on the zombie film, and Cockneys Vs. Zombies is one of these.

Brains, beauty, and big guns
Opening in an East End construction site, the discovery of a 17th-century boneyard that has been sealed on orders of Charles II releases zombies into modern-day London.  Meanwhile, local lads and ne'er-do-wells Terry McGuire (Rasmus Hardiker) and his younger brother Andy (Harry Treadaway) are set to pull off a bank heist to rescue their grandfather Ray (Alan Ford) from a retirement home that is about to be razed to make way for new construction (of course, it's being done by the same construction company that released the zombies).  Joining their compatriots in crime are the smart and sharp-tongued Katy (Michelle Ryan, who rather reminded me of me), near-useless Davey (Jack Doolan) and total nutter Mickey (Ashley Thomas).  Upon reaching the bank, the group finds that their simple heist has landed them in the middle of a massive embezzlement scheme by (yet again) the same construction company that released the zombies (which ties things rather neatly together).  Things go completely spare at this point (courtesy of Mickey), and the group is forced by Mickey to take hostages to get out of the bank, where they discover that the police are all dead and that zombies are feasting on their remains.  After some harrowing dodges of zombies and the dispatch of Mickey by zombies and a handy grenade (which is another interesting idea since it's usually the complete bastard who survives to the end in this sort of thing), Terry decides to save the retirement home, which is already under siege by zombies, who are being held off (not without difficulty) by the tough-minded Ray and his friends.

Not your grandfather's zombie hunters... or maybe they are
While American horror films seem determined to showcase only the young, Cockneys Vs. Zombies has no qualms whatsoever about showcasing some of the brightest and best of its older generation, featuring not only Alan Ford (who has starred in Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels) but also Honor Blackman (alumnus of the James Bond oveure and a former star of the much-loved The Avengers) in strong character roles that give them quite a bit to do.  It's rather refreshing to see a group of pensioners involved in a cracking bullet-strewn standoff with zombies, and the themes of family commitment and responsibility (even under duress) make Cockneys Vs. Zombies a unique entry in the zombie-film crop.  If you'd like to skip the usual zom-nom this season, stick this one in your DVD rotation for a pleasant Halloween evening.

So with that, it's felicitations of the season from me.  Do join us for the next installment of our little holiday party tomorrow, as we'd be delighted to have you along.


Bethany Ruthven

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


#10: The Mad Doctor
So it's the fourth day of The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween, and today we're taking a look at a rather fun little movie from 1986, Night Of The Creeps, directed by Fred Dekker, the same man who made the now-hallowed movie The Monster Squad.  Combining a bit of alien invasion with zombie movies, NOTC is the E.C. Comic to MS's Famous Monsters Of Filmland.

In this case, dead people aren't cool
Opening in 1958, NOTC starts with two aliens trying to stop the release of an experiment, which fails and lands on Earth.  A couple on a date investigate, and the boy becomes the recipient of the experiment--a small slug-like alien creature.  Twenty years later, would-be frat pledges Chris (Jason Lively), a lovelorn sort who hopes to find a love connection with down-to-earth sorority girl Cynthia (Jill Whitlow), and his disabled but supportive buddy J.C. (Steve Marshall) are given the task of finding a cadaver to place on the steps of a sorority house.  Chris and J.C. find one in a secret room of the local cryogenics lab (which is de rigeur for all colleges, natch), and it just happens to be the corpse of the Boy Who Swallowed The Slug From 1958... which tries to grab them.  Things go mightily awry from there, and when the corpse manages to make its way to the sorority house and release its payload of amassed slugs, supernatural highjinks are bound to ensue.

A view to a thrill
From there, the movie becomes a rip-roaring, rollicking tribute to old-fashioned B-horror movies that mixes lost love, new love, film-noirish attitude (courtesy of Tom Atkins, whose heavy-drinking police detective character is a hard-as-nails Broderick Crawford acolyte), zombie apocalyptics, sexy college girls and flamethrowers
Sorority girls, zombies, shotguns and flamethrowers:  what's not to love?

into a fantastic gore-flecked stew that is lovely to behold.  NOTC is available on both DVD and Blu-Ray, and of course we at the Monster Shop had to have it for our collected archive.  Horror nerds will enjoy picking out the names of their favorite horror directors throughout the film, as every character in the movie is named for a noted horror director.  Plus, the action takes place in and around Corman University, after B-movie king Roger Corman.

The return of this film to availability on DVD makes it a wonderful Halloween treat, and an even better double feature when paired with The Monster Squad.  Get them both and have your own Double-Dekker Movie Night for Halloween.

Join us tomorrow on The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween, and don't worry about what's standing behind you... it's probably just reading the blog over your shoulder.  Of course, I could be very wrong...